The Untrustworthies, Avid Fast-Feeders, Etc.

Feeling bad that consumers distrust advertising? Take solace in knowing they’re distrustful in general. A poll conducted by Zogby International asked adults to rate the trustworthiness of various people and institutions on a scale of 1 (“not at all trustworthy”) to 5 (“most trustworthy”). Most respondents (97 percent) gave themselves a grade of 4 or 5. A significantly smaller majority (75 percent) gave their friends and co-workers such high marks. Then there are those notorious rascals, “corporate leaders.” Just 7 percent of respondents gave them a 4 or 5, while 23 percent gave a 3 and 69 percent handed out a 1 or 2. (Time to rethink using the company CEO as commercial spokesman?) The grades were scarcely better for “the media”: 11 percent of respondents gave them a 4 or 5, 31 percent a 3, and 58 percent a 1 or 2. Thank heaven for Congress, which made everyone else look good by comparison. Just 3 percent of respondents gave Congress a 4 or 5, while 76 percent rated it a 1 or 2. The most fly-by-night consumer brand could tout itself as “More honest than Congress!” with little fear of contradiction.

You’d hate to think your identity isn’t worth stealing. No wonder a majority of Americans have taken steps to protect themselves from identity theft, though relatively few have been victimized by it. Defining the phenomenon most loosely, 16 percent of the respondents to a Wall Street Journal Online/ Harris Interactive Personal Finance Poll said they’ve had their debit card or credit card “used by someone they don’t know without their permission.” Fewer said their identity has been used to open a phone, utility or other type of account (3 percent) or for a mortgage or line of credit (1 percent). By contrast, 73 percent said they watch for suspicious activity on their accounts, 72 percent shred mail that includes account numbers and 69 percent limit access to their Social Security number. Women are more likely than men to take each of these steps. Eighty percent of respondents said they trust banks to prevent personal information from falling into the wrong hands. Fewer said the same of credit-card companies (64 percent). People are wary of retailers in this respect, with 43 percent saying they trust those entities, including just 5 percent who trust them “a great deal.”

So that’s why people look dowdy when the weather is cold. A poll by WSL Strategic Retail asked adults to identify the season in which they do the most shopping (excluding holiday gifts). Summer garnered the most votes (36 percent), with spring as runner-up (30 percent). Fall and winter each got 17 percent of the tally. Summer fared especially well with respondents age 18-34, among whom 45 percent picked it as their prime shopping season. Spring scored best with the 55-plus set, topping summer by 38 percent to 27 percent.

This can’t speak well for the quality of Southern cuisine. A new report from Scarborough Research identified the markets with the highest rates of patronage at fast-food outlets like McDonald’s and Subway. Atop the list was Birmingham, Ala., where the average adult makes 6.5 fast-food forays per month, followed by Louisville, Ky. (6.4), Austin, Texas (6.3) and Memphis, Tenn. (6.3). Next in line were Tulsa, Okla., Raleigh/Durham, N.C., Atlanta, San Antonio and Oklahoma City (all 6.2). Only four of the top 20 markets are situated in Northern states (Indianapolis and an Ohio trio of Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati). Apart from Fort Myers/Naples, Fla., the bottom of the fast-feeding ranks was dominated by places in the Northeast.

Surveys routinely find a majority of Americans saying they’re happy. It stands to reason, though, that they’re happier with some aspects of life than with others. Polling by Directions Research, in conjunction with Greenfield Online, took a look at specific things that do (or don’t) make folks happy. Eighty-two percent said they’re extremely happy or somewhat happy with their immediate family. Nearly as many (79 percent) said the same about their friends. Somewhat fewer voiced this degree of happiness with their extended family, their spiritual life or their co-workers (69 percent each). People are more apt to be happy with their talents (68 percent) than with their looks (51 percent), which may mean it’s easier to hold an inflated opinion of the former than of the latter. Even in the era of high gas prices, more people are happy with their car (66 percent) than with their love life (62 percent).

Given the media’s obsession with movie stars’ doings, you’d think Americans spend their lives at the cineplex. Nothing (with the exception of a movie script) could be further from the truth. In a poll by the Pew Research Center, 44 percent of adults said they “hardly ever or never” go out to the movies. Just 5 percent go “about once a week, or more often”; 8 percent go “about once every few weeks.” Moreover, the percentage of people who go to the movies at least once a month has fallen significantly over the past decade (see the chart). The chief reasons why people don’t go more often: “just too busy” (63 percent) and “too few good movies to see” (60 percent). But it’s not as though Americans have stopped viewing movies altogether. They’re just likelier to do it at home. Seventy-one percent said they watch movies at home at least once a week. They even pay, often, for the privilege. The respondents reported “buying a ticket” for home viewing of a movie (via DVD rental or purchase, pay-per-view showing, etc.) an average of 3.41 times per month. If they want more of the authentic movie-theater experience, they can always have the local teenagers drop by and stick gum under their furniture.

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